What is a Vestibular Migraine?

Written by AnaLise on October 23, 2008 – 3:46 pm -

There is a lot of talk going around lately about vestibular migraines.  Part of the reason for this is that Janet Jackson who is known for working very hard to present her magnificent shows had to cancel part of her tour lately due to migraines.  At first, doctors weren’t sure what they were dealing with, but with time, observation and tests, Janet was diagnosed with vestibular migraines, and after just a few days of treatment, she was back on stage.

It used to be that all we heard about were tension headaches and migraine headaches, and perhaps a few words about stress headaches, which in my mind are the same as tension headaches.  So, what are vestibular migraines?  There are a lot of people who want to know.

A vestibular migraine is a migraine headache plus.  The plus is not a good plus; it’s an extra symptom to deal with in the midst of a debilitating migraine headache.  When a person experiences a vestibular migraine, they experience an episode of vertigo before – and often, during – a migraine headache.  The vestibular part of the migraine has to do with the inner ear, which keeps our balance.  Vertigo is a situation where a person actually feels like they are moving, even though it is a hallucination. 

According to individuals who have experienced vertigo, they have described it as being a spinning sensation or a feeling like you have just gotten off of a boat and still feel that up and down motion inside.  Doctors have said that in a vestibular migraine, quite often the vertigo comes on before the headache and lasts during the headache, as well as often being worse than the headache itself. 

There are other aspects of a vestibular migraine that need mentioning.  Many people with migraines can experience dizziness along with it or before it, however there are other symptoms in a vestibular migraines.  Some of the main symptoms include fainting, eye movements that are not normal, temporary loss of hearing and weakness in the arms and/or legs. 

Vestibular migraines used to be thought of as a lack of circulation to the back of the brain, however through research, physicians have discovered that they are a neurological problem with the function of the back of the brain.  These headaches usually start around the mid 20’s but can appear at any age.  They can be more difficult to treat than regular migraines, and usually need migraine medication and separate medication to address the vertigo.

No matter what age you are, if you are experiencing the symptoms in this article, talk to your doctor as soon as possible or find a specialist who can help you.

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